The French Lieutenant's Woman

The French Lieutenant's Woman

eBook - 1969
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While in Lyme Regis to visit his fiancee, Ernestina Freeman, Charles Smithson, a 32-year-old paleontologist, becomes fascinated by the mysterious Sarah Woodruff. A fallen woman said to have been jilted by a French officer, Sarah is a pariah to the well-bred society that Charles and Ernestina are a part of. While searching for fossils in a wooded coastal area, Charles encounters Sarah alone, and his curiosity and pity for her soon evolve into other emotions. It is not clear who seduces whom, but when another opportunity presents itself, Charles embraces Sarah passionately. Shortly thereafter, Sarah disappears, having been dismissed from domestic employment by the tyrannical do-gooder Mrs. Poultenay. Charles finds her in a room in Exeter, where he declares and demonstrates his love. Inspired by his image of Sarah as a valiant rebel against Victorian conventions, Charles rejects the constricting, respectable life Ernestina represents for him. He breaks off their engagement and is harassed with legal action for breach of contract. Meanwhile, Sarah vanishes again, and Charles spends 20 months scouring the world for her, finally tracing her to the lodgings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti in London.
Publisher: Boston, Little, Brown [1969]
Edition: 1st ed.
Characteristics: 467 p. 25 cm

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lukasevansherman
Dec 22, 2014

"But I live in the age of Alain Robbe-Gillet and Roland Barthes; if this is a novel, it cannot be a novel in the modern sense of the word."
English writer re-imagines the Victorian novel for the modern era. While remaining faithful to the form and themes of 19th century novels, he also inserts what could not be part of those novels, namely sex and characters discussing controversial subjects like Darwin, the fossil record, socialism, and evolution. Marx and Tennyson provide many of the chapter's epigraphs. Fowles, like a good post-modernist, addresses the reader, which astute readers will know is actually an old device that goes back to the roots of the English novel (Fielding, Smollett). Unlike many post-modernists, this works both as a conventional novel and as a play on a novel. If you've seen the film (Harold Pinter did the screenplay), which added a present-set storyline, the book is far more creative, provocative, and absorbing. Also check out "The Collector" by the same author.

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kwsmith
Dec 10, 2009

Sarah's character is portrayed ambiguously, leaving the reader to wonder if she is genuine or slyly manipulative. Three different endings are presented for the reader to choose from. A dark feeling of tragedy is woven throughout the novel.

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